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Performance Management

How to have that difficult conversation


Preparing for performance reviews with your team should generally be a straight-forward process.

Typically, the steps include:

  1. Requesting the employee’s feedback on their own performance
  2. Gathering evidence, including things like sales figures, other KPIs/measurements, customer feedback, attendance records, etc.
  3. Completing your manager review
  4. Meeting with your employee to discuss the above, along with their personal development plan
  5. Finalising actions for the next review period

However, where you have a poorly performing employee, additional preparation is required. Here are our recommendations for approaching difficult conversations at performance reviews.


Be solution driven.

Any performance difficulties discussed need to conclude with an agreed way of moving forward so that every issue has a solution attached to it at the end of the discussion.

Use the phrase: “So, now that we have discussed this challenge, lets agree how to change this in the future…”


Keep the meeting on an equal footing.

Make certain that the meeting allows for the employee to feel that they are completely free to say what they want to – allow time and space for them to talk. If the meeting is not conducted on an equal footing, then half the communication (and much of the benefit) will be lost.


Discuss the differences.

Major differences between your manager review and the employee’s self-review highlight a gap in perception and understanding. The discussion will centre on why the perceptions are different and also what can be done to move the assessments up the scale.


Is it a problem of motivation or ability?

Ask questions to diagnose the root cause of the issue. Listen for whether it is a case of ‘can’t do’ or ‘won’t do’? Tailor the solution accordingly.


Discuss your role in improving the performance.

Are you helping or standing in the way of performance? Are you controlling too much or being too hands-off? Does the employee need more training? How can you can best support them to make positive changes?


Make a plan and follow up.

Agree and document the plan – what, who, and by when? Then don’t forget to follow-up. Too often a performance plan languishes unopened until the next review. Regular follow-up is essential to effect real change.


Following these guidelines should lead to a constructive conversation and the development of a quality action plan. Keen to learn more? Positive People run a Performance Management module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training and development solutions.

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Engage and inspire your team with effective communication. 


In today’s digital world communication is everywhere, yet why is it so hard to still get cut through in the workplace? From a time when under communicating was a key workplace issue, these days it is easy to over communicate, lose your messages in the noise, or get lost in translation.


So how do you get it right?

To make sure your employees receive and understand your key messages make sure you:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Have a mechanism for feedback
  3. Include verbal communication in your plans
  4. Tailor your message to your audience


Keep it simple.

When drafting emails, memos, newsletters or updates it is easy to include too much information or over explain. This will cause your essential messages to get lost.

Before you start think carefully about exactly what you want to say – then say it. This way a clear concise message will be received.


Have a mechanism for feedback.

What if your message doesn’t make sense to someone? What if they don’t understand a concept? How easy is it for your employees to ask questions and are they encouraged to do so? In any company communication plan, it is essential to have a place or forum where the team feel comfortable to ask questions and deepen their understanding of your message. Remember the message that you have sent is only what your team understand it to be, so promoting two way conversations and feedback makes sense to help you get this right.


“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw


Include verbal communication in your plans.

The increase in online Company communication forums means it is easy to forget the importance of face to face verbal communication, as it is so much quicker and easier to post something online. Written messages can be misunderstood, lack the right tone or a human face, which can aid the impact of your message. Regular team meetings or Company gatherings are crucial to keeping messages personal and connecting your team to your message.


Tailor your message to your audience.

It is easy to communicate a message in a way which you understand, but think carefully about your team – are they all like you? Do you have employees with English as a second language, or team members who don’t understand more technical terms, or don’t have an extensive knowledge of business? Giving updates which the team don’t understand adds to the noise and decreases the self-esteem of the team. Think carefully about your audience, recheck your words and write for your team – not for yourself.


Strong workplace communication is essential for engagement and motivation and helps to create inclusive, collaborative teams. Using the tips above will help you to get cut through in an increasingly noisy world and create a better workplace for you and your team.

Would you like to improve your Company communication? Positive People run a Communication module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program, which can be tailored for both Managers and staff.  Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training, coaching and development solutions.


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Communication is one of the essential tools of any business, and also one of the most difficult to get right. Every business has communication at it’s core, with interactions between staff, departments, customers and suppliers happening every minute of every day. The quality and content of these interactions can have a huge impact on both staff morale and overall business success.

Our experience in staff surveys has proven to us that good communication is key to staff engagement, and is the most frequent improvement area we see. Getting it right can bring big rewards to an organisation, whilst getting it wrong can have serious negative consequences.

So in a medium sized organisation how do you get it right? It may seem easy if you have only 40 staff, but how often do you hear your team say “no-one told me” or “that wasn’t what I thought you meant”.

Without strict formal communication channels and strategy the most effective way to do this well is to ensure everyone in your organisation understands what a good communicator does and takes ownership of their own communication. Make sure they know why communication is so important and provide them with the techniques to be a good communicator. If all of your team take on the responsibility to ensure they communicate well, your business can excel in this area.

To do this we suggest:
1. Training your team on communication. It is easy to open your mouth and talk, but it is a lot harder to send a clear message and ask for feedback to make sure messages have a common understanding. Encourage your team to think about tone, body language, content and method of delivery. Help them to understand how it will benefit them directly if they communicate well.
2. Make communication everyone’s responsibility. It is easy to assign communication to Managers, yet when you operate in a lean and flexible environment everyone has responsibilities which impact on each other. Let your team know that communication is a Company-wide responsibility. Encourage them to suggest ideas to improve communication and get them involved with implementing these suggestions.
3. Give feedback. Usually in appraisal or feedback discussions we focus on the delivery of tasks or achieving KPI’s. By widening this discussion to include not only “what” your team member does, but “how” they do it and “how” they communicate, you can help embed a culture of pro-active communication and then provide feedback and coaching to improve this.
Excelling in organisational communication can bring direct improvements to your business through improved engagement and increased productivity. Not to mention the reduction of misunderstandings. Communication can be difficult in a business of any size but with the right training, accountability and feedback you can get it right.

Positive People have extensive experience assisting organisations improve their communication. We have proven communication training and systems which can help your organisation become excellent at communicating. See Communication training. Contact us now.